Protesters who attempted to disrupt an arms fair at the Excel Centre, Docklands, last September have been acquitting from blocking a highway.

The judge at Stratford Magistrates’ Court accepted their defence – that they were trying to prevent greater crimes, such as genocide and torture.

The eight had protested against the Defence & Security Equipment International event which brings tens of thousands of delegates from all over the world to view the latest in crowd suppression techniques and other paraphernalia.

District Judge Angus Hamilton agreed that there was evidence of illegal deals being made at the event and the Metropolitan Police said it would discuss the judgment with the Crown Prosecution Service.

The protesters, five men and three women from all over the world, had tried to block access to the controversial event to the west of the centre and they had also established an encampment to the east.

Background Protest against arms fair at Excel Centre

But the judge heard evidence of illegal arms sales that went unchallenged by the prosecution which argued a not guilty plea would create a precedent for future disruptions.

The judge said: “[There is] clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015.

The DSEi defendants celebrate their not guilty verdict

“It was not appropriately investigated by the authorities. This could be inferred from the responses of the police officers, that they did not take the defendants’ allegations seriously.”

In a joint statement the campaigners said: “Over the week, we have put DSEI and the arms trade on trial and we have proven them to be illegitimate. Our only regret is that we didn’t succeed in shutting down DSEI.

“We were compelled to try to prevent war, repression, torture and genocide and we stand by our actions.”

Demonstrators protest against the arms fair, set to start on September 15. (Pic: Twitter/Stop The Arms Fair)

Organisers of the DSEI, which returns in September 2017 , said they were working with Government departments “to refine out compliance processes” and said there were no breaches in 2015.

A spokesman said: “All our exhibitors are contractually bound to ensure that they exhibit at DSEI in a manner which is compliant with all relevant arms control legislation. We are explicitly clear that any exhibitors or individuals found to be in breach of compliance regulations at DSEI will be immediately ejected.”